At SoundBox, the Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system plays a keystone element in the San Francisco Symphony’s radical new strategy for attracting younger audiences to diverse live music. The brainchild of symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas, SoundBox has reshaped music discovery by removing the constraints of many typical classical music venues, including the acoustics.
“SoundBox is a new and experimental space for music of all kinds,” Tilson Thomas explains. “Part of the experience of being in this space is to hear music of many different eras—from ninth century Gregorian chant to music composed today. Constellation from Meyer Sound provides the optimal acoustics for each genre and has helped us create a space where audience and musicians can explore a new kind of musical journey together.”
SoundBox occupies Zellerbach A, a lofty, 7,600-square-foot rehearsal space adjacent to San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. As SoundBox, the space is now stunningly transformed with the addition of casual seating, a bar and cocktail tables, multiple video projection screens, subdued lighting, and Constellation’s chameleon-like yet natural ability to create a broad range of acoustic spaces. With Constellation, composers and conductors can select from different acoustic environments for each musical piece—and even custom program a totally new environment if desired.
The role of Constellation in defining the SoundBox experience has been universally extolled by the media. Joshua Kosman, music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes: “Constellation has transformed a dead rehearsal studio into a lively and versatile acoustical gem… With the system operating, the entire venue livened up—and more than that, it was able to accommodate a whole variety of textures, from solo instruments to midsize chamber orchestra.”
At the heart of the system is the D-Mitri® digital audio platform including the DVRAS processors that host the VRAS™ algorithms and generate early reflections and late reverberations in four discrete reverberation zones. By dividing the system into four zones, the performance stage can be placed along any wall, and multiple stages can be used simultaneously. The system also comprises 28 widely distributed microphones, and 85 small, self-powered loudspeakers discreetly wall-mounted and suspended from the 50-foot ceiling.
Overhead are 24 UPM-1XP loudspeakers with 18 UPJunior-XP VariO™ and 31 MM-4XP self-powered loudspeakers as upper and lower laterals, respectively. Twelve UMS-SMXP subwoofers extend the reverberation envelope through the lowest octaves.
All loudspeakers employ Meyer Sound’s IntelligentDC™ technology, which maintains the sonic advantages of self-powering while simplifying installation by running both balanced audio signal and DC power (for the on-board amplifiers) over a single five-conductor cable from a remote power supply and signal distribution unit.
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander served as theatrical consultants, and the system was installed by BBI.
For the inaugural SoundBox program in December entitled “Extremities,” unique acoustical settings were chosen by the artists for each musical selection. The shortest reverberation setting was for Steve Reich’s percussive “Music for Pieces of Wood,” while choral works such as Josquin Desprez’s great 16th century “Missa Pange lingua” were wrapped in a spacious cathedral setting. Contemporary works like Varèse’s “Intégrales” and Monk’s “Panda Chant II” were appropriately enhanced by intermediate settings.